OAKLAND, Calif. -- Just like Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau says the games always do, Wednesday’s 125-101 loss to reigning NBA champion Golden State told plenty. Including this revelation from the guy they call Thibs: “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The Wolves’ five-game winning streak – the franchise’s longest since Al Jefferson and Kevin Love played together in 2009 – that ended abruptly Wednesday told them what could be. Wednesday’s loss in which they were outscored 44-26 in the third quarter alone told them starkly what is.
“You learn a lot from playing against them,” Thibodeau said. “That’s what a championship team looks like.”
The Warriors looked and played like one on Wednesday, winning for the eighth time in nine games – including their fifth consecutive game, 17 or more points – even though superstar forward Kevin Durant didn’t play because of a bruised thigh. Without him, the Warriors withstood a first half in which they committed 13 turnovers and the Wolves recorded 11 steals off those.
Then they started doing something differently after a halftime in which the Warriors led by just a point, 51-50.
“Well, we threw it to our guys instead of the other guys,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “As simple as it sounds, that’s what happened.”
In that second half, the Warriors took the road less traveled and that made all the difference. That 44-26 third quarter included an 18-4 run on a night when Golden State’s Klay Thompson-Stephen Curry backcourt combined for 58 points and eight of their team’s 15 three-pointers made while Wolves guards Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague scored 25 points between the two of them.
“The third quarter was not our best,” Thibodeau said.
That was the understatement of a night when the Warriors outdid the Wolves in three-pointers made 15-5, rebounding 45-41 and fast-break points 35-14. They also had 37 assists on 48 made field goals.
“We’ve got to take some things they do and apply it to our squad, at both ends of the floor,” Butler said after he made five of 12 shots from the field and scored 11 points. “They’re always in the right position on defense. If somebody gets beat, they’re always there to help. They whip that ball around and everybody gets involved on every single play. We’ve got to do more of that. We just have to play hard. They just outplayed us that entire game, especially in the third quarter.”
They did so without Durant, who did not play because of that bruised thigh sustained in Monday’s home victory over Miami. Without him, Kerr started top reserve Andre Iguodala at small forward even though he prefers not to disrupt his second unit when a starter goes out.
He chose to do so because of Iguodala’s perimeter defense against the Wolves’ Butler-Andrew Wiggins tag team on the wing.
“They won a championship when K.D. wasn’t there,” Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns said. “That’s nothing different. They’re still one of the best teams in the NBA. We have to play our best to beat them and tonight we didn’t do that.”
With Durant out, Kerr simply asked more from such players as Omri Casspi, Nick Young, Shaun Livingston and JaVale McGee. If it had been a playoff game, Durant would have played, Kerr said.
But of course, it wasn’t. It was a Wednesday night in November.
Kerr said as strange as it sounds, he likes it when he’s missing a star because it allows others to step forward
“I kind of like these games in a weird way,” Kerr said. “It’s good for our team, it’s good for morale and it’s good for individual development.”
It wasn’t good for the Wolves in any of those areas. Maybe it was good, though, because it was a sobering stroke of reality after a 7-3 season start.
“We got humbled tonight,” Wolves veteran forward Taj Gibson said. “Good teams weather the storm, but I feel like it was a good experience for us to learn from. That’s the kind of level we want to get to, the way they’re playing over there. I feel like we’re just going to get better from it. We’ve been in plenty of games like this. We have to look back at what we did, five (victories) in a row.
“We dropped the ball tonight, but we’re going to bounce back. We’re a good team and we understand we’re capable of being a great team.”
golden state 125, wolves 101 Saturday: 8 p.m. at Phoenix (FSN)